After cases among kids and teens surged 84 percent in just a week, pediatric COVID cases account for nearly 20 percent of the national total
With the highly contagious delta variant now the primary source of COVID-19 infections in the U.S., cases and hospitalizations are rising in every single state. But what’s truly terrifying about this variant is it seems to cause more frequent, severe illness in kids, who were largely spared from previous variants of the virus. The American Academy of Pediatrics reported on Tuesday that nearly 72,000 kids and teens were infected last week, an 84 percent increase from the week before.
During the week from July 22 – 29, the group counted 71,726 new cases in children and teens. That’s a “substantial increase” from less than 39,000 during the week before, and nearly five times as many kids who were infected with COVID at the end of June.
“That’s high and considering the fact that we are vaccinated now, what that’s telling us is that unvaccinated people are getting infected in higher numbers because the virus is more infectious with the Delta variant,” Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, chair of the AAP committee on infectious diseases, told CNN.
In the latest weekly data, kids represent 19 percent of the nation’s total COVID cases. The way kids are defined varies state by state, but generally, it’s people up to 17 or 18 years old.
This news comes just as schools are set to reopen for the fall semester, many of them without mask requirements in place. In fact, a number of states have outright banned mask mandates in schools, even though they’re the best way to protect kids — especially those under 12 who are still too young to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. In May, Texas Governor Greg Abbott banned mask mandates in schools in his state. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp soon followed suit. In the months since, the governors of Arkansas, Iowa, North Dakota, Florida, and South Carolina have either banned mask mandates in schools, given parents permission to ignore mandates, or made other moves to prevent mask-wearing in schools in their states.
Vaccines are being tested in kids as young as 6 months, but they likely won’t be made available to kids under 12 for several more months.
The only good news is that the AAP said severe disease from COVID is still rare in kids. While children accounted for nearly 20 percent of all cases, they made up just 1.3-3.5 percent of hospitalizations, depending on the state. The CDC has counted 526 child deaths in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic.